Kristen Ortman Maines has been the head women’s tennis coach at the University at Buffalo for the past seven years.
The results in her first five years at UB were very good. The past two years, the team's accomplishments have bordered on the miraculous.
The Bulls have won the Mid-American Conference tournament in consecutive seasons and earned the automatic berths to the NCAA championships.
In 2016-17, UB avenged regular-season losses during the MAC touranment to win its first conference title in 10 years and earn the second NCAA berth in the program's history. No other women's program at UB had earned two NCAA trips at the time.
The victory in the MAC final against Miami was the Bulls' eighth in a row and they moved to 14-8 on the season. UB would lose to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAAs.
In 2017-18, UB repeated as MAC champions as the tournament's No. 1 seed and tied the school record with 17 victories, which was set in 2006-07. The Bulls drew No. 12 Northwestern in the first round and lost, 4-0, suffering their first defeat in three months.
After the team’s phenomenal success last year, Maines was voted the MAC Coach of the Year and the ITA Regional Coach of the Year.
"The past two years have been an accumulation of everything I have ever strived for," Maines said. "We still practice five or six days a week for two hours a day at Miller Tennis Center and try to get 1 percent better every day."
UB was 7-3 this season entering the weekend with non-conference matches against Binghamton, St. Bonaventure and Oakland.
Maines succeeded Kathy Twist as the UB head coach when Twist was named associate athletic director for sports administration. She had been Twist's assistant for five years.
"She did a phenomenal job (as an assistant)," Twist said. "I saw that she had the talent to be a great head tennis coach. She was a great strategist and worked with each player individually to improve their tennis games. Equally important, she knew how to treat each player as a person, not just as a tennis player. All of those attributes were instrumental in Kristen getting the head tennis coaching job.”
Maines’ playing background is equally outstanding. At Amherst High, Maines went 75-0 without ever losing a set while playing first singles over a five-year period. (She started playing as an eighth grader.)
When she graduated from UB, she held the record for most singles and doubles wins during her time at the school.
In building the program at UB, Maine has always had a diverse group of players. To help recruit, she has used highlights on YouTube videos and traveled overseas. The roster includes players from Romania, Greece, Puerto Rico, Germany, India and two from Spain.
Chantal Martinez Blanco, who plays No. 1 singles and doubles for UB, is from San Juan and has been on Puerto Rico's Junior Fed Cup team since she was 12. She has been playing No. 1 doubles with Nikoleta Antoniou-Karademitrou, a freshman from Volos, Greece.
Maines has created a culture of success on and off the tennis court and continues to stress academics.
“I am always looking for strong tennis players who have a high national and international ranking," she said. "Each player also has to be a good person, have good values and realize that they are part of a family."
She also noted that there are other intangibles in finding the right players: They must have a competitive work ethic and a desire to constantly improve.
It is easy to see why Maines is such an outstanding coach. She has tremendous rapport with each player and is always positive.